Often overshadowed by its richer, more tourist-friendly neighbours Newcastle, Durham and York, Darlington is a quieter northern town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Its 15 minutes of fame came with the virgin voyage of George Stevenson’s Rocket, the first steam powered-train. The Rocket’s 1825 journey along the Stockton-Darlington railway established the towns as capitals of the railway age.

Today, Darlington, like much of the North-East, no longer enjoys the prominence of its industrial era and is a poor town which is not traditionally a great tourist-magnet. However, visitors to Darlington will be rewarded with pleasant, tree-lined Victorian streets, an historical centre and friendly people, as well as being able to use it as a base from which to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside.


Darlington’s rail history is commemorated by the Railway Centre and Train Museum which presents its story for casual visitors as well as seasoned train-spotters. Housed in the town’s old station, the centre is a signposted 20-minute walk from the city centre.

The town’s connections to Quaker history are commemorated in the newly revamped Civic Arts Centre, which also plays host to a variety of exhibitions and shows – some local, some touring. Check listings in the Darlington and Stockton Times to see what’s on. 'The Quakers' is also the nickname for Darlington Football club, a passion for most townspeople. The small stadium’s wooden benches are a far cry from most football stadiums today and matches retain the feel of a bygone, pie-and-ale era.

Darlington has been called the capital of the Dales, and from here drivers can visit smaller market towns such as Barnard Castle, or go hiking, biking, swimming or just view-admiring in the National Parks, which are equally as awe-inspiring as the Yorkshire Moors and much less touristy.


Darlington has various shopping ‘centres’ – the high street, the covered market and the modern U-shaped mall. The usual chain shops dominate the mall and the streets, but the old covered market has more character, selling fruit and vegetables, knock-down electrical goods and miscellaneous jumble. The market spills out into the square on market days, and the square backs onto pubs, alleyways and a leisure centre. Darlington is a good place to pick up local produce in the form of goods from the Dales - local honey, Wensleydale cheese or wooly jumpers. From November to January the glorious, camp Christmas decorations – often involving Stevenson’s Rocket - are a sight the guidebooks don’t mention.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Darlington nightlife is not cosmopolitan, but those willing to forgo their dirty martinis and house DJ’s will find cheap, friendly northern pubs and clubs serving beer as late as they’re allowed, loud music and, sometimes, live local bands. Bouncers are not uncommon, even on the doors of smaller pubs, and visitors can expect clothes restrictions (usually no trainers, no jeans, no hats) in most clubs, all of which is part of an effort to reduce the inevitable scuffles that occur on Saturday nights. The bingo hall is popular with a quieter crowd, as are the pubs around the market square.

A surprising number of decent international restaurants can be found in Darlington city centre and even in the suburbs. Sardinian, French, Spanish and Thai restaurants jostle for custom alongside curry-houses and chip-shops – nonetheless, kebab shops remain more plentiful and more popular than purveyors of haut cuisine. Bakeries sell local specialties such as Yorkshire curd tarts and fruit cakes, and small tea shops will sell these home-made goods alongside a pot of strong tea… although a skinny macchiato may be harder to find. Most pubs serve lunches along the pie-and-chips line, which prove popular with hikers as well as locals.

Tourist Information

Information DarlingtonHorsemarketDarlingtonDL1 5PWTelephone: 01325 388666/01325 388675tic@darlington.gov.ukwww.visitdarlington.netwww.darlington.gov.uk


Durham/Tees Valley Airport is 15 minute drive from Darlington town centre. Frequent flights to Amsterdam Schipol and London Heathrow airports provide international connections.

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